The disease of addiction knows no ethnic, economic, religious or environmental bounds – it can happen to anyone, including American politicians. In fact, addiction and alcoholism are common among high-profile people of all types, who are generally scrutinized more closely and operate under far more duress than the average person. Despite success, wealth and power, many prominent politicians have turned to drugs or alcohol as a stress-management mechanism. Accepting that even world leaders aren’t immune to addiction is critical to create a better understanding of this all-too-human condition.
Politicians from many different backgrounds have struggled with addiction or alcoholism, and this isn’t just true of obscure backwater state or municipal level politicians – even American presidents have been known to partake a little too much. For instance, President Grant was widely known to be alcoholic and quite possibly lost an Army appointment over this issue. And more than a century later, many people claimed that George W. Bush had essentially professed an affinity for cocaine in his college years. In an article titled Drugs and Politicians, senior fellow at the Future of Freedom Foundation Sheldon Richman said;
“Mr. Bush has all but admitted he used cocaine or other illegal drugs prior to the last 15 years. But as governor of Texas he supports tough laws against people who use those drugs peacefully. In his state, thanks to Governor Bush, someone possessing less than a gram of cocaine can be sentenced to prison.” (1)
Mr. Sheldon’s argument is one that has sparked considerable debate at all levels of American politics. The inherent risks associated with politicians that become addicted to drugs or alcohol is that – at the very least – they’ll make decisions that they would not have made while sober. This undermines the integrity of the US political machine because the public generally expects that its elected officials will be the staunchest supporters of the laws they help to create.
These and similar public debates concerning politicians and drug abuse or alcoholism gave rise to even further controversy in the early 1990’s when a number of groups began lobbying to have politicians drug tested in order to hold public office. The practice of testing politicians was put into effect in some locations, but after Georgian candidate for Lieutenant Governor Walker Chandler was drug tested as part of his run for office, he launched an effort to have the practice discontinued. The Supreme Court eventually agreed with him in 1997 and the requirement was struck down. InfoPlease.COM reports on the presiding Justice in the unanimous decision:
“The need revealed, in short, is symbolic, not ‘special,’ as that term draws meaning from our case law … where the risk to public safety is substantial and real, blanket suspicion less searches calibrated to the risk may rank as ‘reasonable’—for example, searches now routine at airports and at entrances to courts and other official buildings … But where, as in this case, public safety is not genuinely in jeopardy, the Fourth Amendment precludes the suspicion less search, no matter how conveniently arranged.” (2)
In simple language, the benefit provided by testing politicians was so small that the costs and efforts expended to do so could not be justified. However, this has once again been brought up as a related point to modern arguments that all welfare recipients should be tested for drugs. Many experts point to evidence that suggests that welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than any other demographic. And because state and federal welfare systems are already overburdened, amassing and expending the resources necessary to test an entire population of people on welfare will likely be called counterintuitive by some.
However, the problem with addiction among politicians isn’t isolated to drug use – alcoholism is also a serious problem among American elected officials. According to a humorous but startling article in Indecision Forever titled The 6 Drinkiest Politicians in U.S. History, the author identifies the following politicians as heavy, even problematic drinkers:
- Senator Ted Kennedy
- Senator Bob Packwood
- President Richard Nixon
- Senator John Tower
- President Grant
- Senator Joseph McCarthy (3)
User generated comments on the article make suggestions for such politicians as Charlie Wilson, Tip O’Neil, Hugh Carey, Bill Clinton and others.
Some politicians have even been called out for both drug abuse AND alcohol abuse. George Bush reportedly used cocaine at some point in his early career, and then was forced to admit in 2000 that at one time he had also been convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol. CNN Politics reports:
“Brushes with the law over alcohol have ended more than a few political careers in Washington, while others have survived without much damage. Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who confirmed press reports Thursday that he was arrested for drunken driving in Maine in 1976, isn’t the only Republican candidate guilty of “youthful indiscretions.” His running mate, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, was twice arrested for drunken driving in the 1960s when he was in his early 20s.” (4)
Drug addiction and alcoholism isn’t just happening to politicians. Every day we hear reports of celebrities, powerful sports figures, musicians, business people and even royalty struggling with substance abuse issues. The fact that the American public generally finds these stories to be sensational is a testament to the fact that it teaches us that we’re all human. And when it comes to the disease of addiction, anyone can be afflicted under the right circumstances, just as is the case with many clinical diseases.
If you’re fighting an addiction, don’t do it alone any longer. There are effective treatments available to help you break free from the chains of substance abuse and live a life of meaning. All you need to do is put your Recovery First, and that begins with the simple act of picking up the phone. What are you waiting for? Call us now.
(1) Richman, Sheldon Drugs and Politicians Freedom Daily
(2) InfoPlease.COM Testing Politicians for Drugs
(3) Indecision Forever.COM The 6 Drinkiest Politicians in U.S. History 03/13/2011
(4) CNN Politics Alcohol and Politics often go Hand in Hand 11/03/2000